Taking your car to Italy can be surprisingly easy – and great fun.
The key is to stick to the countryside, where having your own transport gives you access to lakes and mountains, idyllic farming villages and jagged coastlines.
Cities are another matter. Confusing, dangerous, jammed with traffic and almost impossible to park in. Don’t even think about driving in Naples, which even Italians like to avoid.
Hit the road
Italians tend to drive aggressively. To survive, you’ll need to be assertive, alert and quick off the mark at traffic lights. It’s not uncommon for slow starters to be rammed from behind.
If you’re caught speeding you’ll face a hefty fine, payable on the spot.
A blood alcohol-limit over 50mg means you’re likely to be fined and can have your licence confiscated.
The autostradas are excellent, and not all that expensive. The toll from Rome to Florence, for instance, is €17.80.
The Amalfi coast road between Sorrento and Salerno is among the most dramatic in the Mediterranean.
Postcard-perfect villages cascade down steep mountainsides to meet an azure sea, the twisting shoreline punctuated by sandy coves, medieval towers and terraced orchards.
The road itself – a triumph of engineering over sanity – clings to the rock face, soaring and plunging into one blind hairpin after another.
Best of the rest
Two hours north of Verona, high in the Dolomites, the winding 100km road between Bolzano and Cortina provides spectacular views of jagged limestone peaks.
Alternatively, follow the back roads from Bologna through Chianti to Siena – then whizz back on the autostrada.
Laws of the land
All car passengers must wear seatbelts if fitted.
You must carry a reflective safety vest and a warning triangle. If you stop on a main road and get out of your car without a vest you can be fined.
Dipped headlights must be used on all main roads. Full-beam lights can be used only outside cities and towns.
Don’t use a horn in a built-up area except in an emergency.
Dial 112 for emergencies and 116 for breakdowns.
Motorcyclists must dip their headlights during the day and wear crash helmets.
Italy operates some Low Emission Zones (LEZs), so make sure you check the emission standard of your car to see if it meets the requirements.
Italian speed limits
|Outside urban areas
|Dual carriageways/urban stretches
||110 km/h (90 km/h in the wet)
|Outside built-up areas
||130 km/h (110 km/h in the wet)
In cities, you must park in the direction of the traffic. Don’t leave your car in a zona di rimozione which is the tow-away zone.
Tuck in your wing mirrors and make sure you don’t park overnight in a street that has a morning market.
Outside urban areas, Italians use their horns to signal their intention to overtake. At junctions, if in doubt, give way to traffic entering from the right.
You can find more information and tips on driving abroad in our guide.